Scientists have said that pet owners should start walking their cats on leads in a bid to give them more ‘enrichment’.
A growing movement, with the hashtag #catwalking, calls on pet owners to begin taking their furry friends on walks, especially if they’re stuck indoors all day.
With many cats cooped up indoors for long periods, particularly in urban towns and cities, there has been an increase in interest to provide them with more freedom.
Scientist Dr David Grimm, a deputy editor of Science magazine, has been walking his two cats on a leash for thirteen years and wants others to follow suit.
Writing in the New York Times, he said: ‘We just wanted our two kittens to experience more of the world than our cramped apartment in Baltimore.’
‘We need to start walking our cats. I’m not saying that you should put your cat on a leash like we did but it does keep them from running out into traffic.’
Dr Grimm said we should ‘let our cats outside for thirty to sixty minutes a day to rove yards, stroll sidewalks and disappear into shrubbery’.
‘We should pick them up when they head for the street. We should whistle or clap when they begin stalking a bird. And we should have a bag of treats ready when it’s time to call them back indoors.’
The hashtag #catwalking has more than 38,261 posts on Instagram that consist of pictures of owners taking their cats through cities, trains, buses and parks.
It can be traced to organisations such as Adventure Cat, a website launched in 2015 dedicated to valiant domestic cats enjoying the great outdoors.
Well known pet brands have released their own line of cat walking products, with specialists including PetSafe UK and PetPlanet stocking a range of cat harnesses and leads.
However, some animal rights groups believe that a cats sense of control is very important and putting them on a leash removes their independence.
An RSPCA spokeswoman told MailOnline that while they appreciate the need for cats to be mentally stimulated, toys and climbing frames are likely to be more beneficial to their welfare.
‘Some cats may be frightened by the experience of being on a lead, so we would ask all owners to take this in to consideration.
‘This is because a sense of control is very important to cats and being walked on a collar or harness prevents them from having control.
‘It may be more difficult for them to be able to move away or hide from anything which might scare or worry them.
‘If an owner feels that putting their cat on a lead would not be stressful for their pet then they should introduce them to this experience in a slow, gradual and positive manner.
‘If any signs of distress are seen such as the cat trying to pull away or get away then this should be stopped immediately.’
Although some animal lovers disagree. Cat behaviourist Anita Kelsey says that if a cat clearly wants to go outside, you should train him or her on a lead.
‘If a cat is going mad being kept indoors, they’re crying at the windows all the time, and you’ve done everything you can to bring the outside in, that’s when I help people train the cats to walk on a lead,’ she told the Guardian in an interview last year.
She added that letting a cat outside can help to solve some pets’ ‘destructive behaviour’.